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26/10/2007 No.4
rendspotting Football
Kevin Pullein
Friday October 26, 2007

Manchester United derive no greater advantage from playing at Old Trafford, the ground with the largest capacity in the Premier League, than Accrington Stanley derive from playing at the Fraser Eagle, the ground with the smallest capacity in the Football League. In England, at least, ground advantage is a constant but that is not always how the bookmakers see it.

In some markets there is an assumption that home advantage is less significant when the very best teams play each other, such as on occasions like this weekend's big match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield. It is a mistaken assumption. In games played during the last 10 seasons between the "big four" of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United, the home team won 46% of the time - which is as often as in other fixtures between closely matched opponents.

The statistics show that in the Premier and Football Leagues during the past 10 seasons 57-58% of goals were scored by home teams. Of all the goals scored by those teams who finished top of the Premier League 58% were scored during their home games. And of all the goals scored by those teams who finished bottom of the lowest division in the Football League 57% were scored during their home games.

In the Premier League during those 10 seasons 47% of games were won by the home team, 26% were drawn and 27% were won by the away team. We can use these percentages as reference points. For instance, if two teams of similar ability play each other, the home team is more likely to score goals and there will be around a 47% chance of a home win, a 26% chance of a draw and a 27% chance of an away win.

Obviously, if the home team are better than the away team, they will have a greater chance of winning and a smaller chance of losing. When teams who finished in the top four hosted teams who finished in the bottom four, they won 82% of their games, drew 14% and lost 4%. But when teams are of a similar ability the odds can sometimes be exploited.

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